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FedEx fails to deliver — We’re no worse than the other guy

With great anticipation I was waiting for my birthday gift to come to India. A Nikkor AFS VR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF lens. Considered one of the finest lenses made by Nikon. Thanks to FedEx, I will not have it.

My brother in law was leaving the US for India on Tuesday afternoon, and having saved up some money, I somehow found a piece at an online store based in Spokane, WA, Onecall.

While taking the order, the sales representative mis-entered the destination ZIP code as 10016 instead of 10017. This one dgit was the start of my woes. My mistake tha I did not observe it in the order acknowledgement.

The shipment was by FedEx priority overnight service which was to be guaranteed delivery by 10:30am.

Come 10:30am there was no sign of the shipment. At 12:33pm EDT, two hours after the deadline, I get an automated “delivery exception” indicating the address was wrong.

Tracking number: 924232035865
Reason Delivery Not Completed
1. Incorrect address – Street name/number;
Recommended Action
Contact us to provide correct delivery address and/or additional delivery information.;

Please do not respond to this message. This email was sent from an unattended
mailbox. This report was generated at approximately 11:33 AM CDT
on 06/30/2009.

Of course, the “contact us” hyper-link only connects to the generic FedEx “contact us” page.

On researching and finally speaking to a FedEx customer service representative, I was told there was an error in the ZIP code. I pointed out, only the last digit was different, and the destination phone number was on the label, and was informed that normally FedEx looks at “wrongly addressed” packages only after 24 hours, even in the case of Priority Overnight shipments.

I was further told that FedEx did me a favour by tracing the error and bringing the package to their station on W. 42nd Street (the delivery address was on E. 44th Street) on the same day. The earliest they could assure delivery was “before 8pm” by which time my brother in law would be over the Atlantic ocean.

Remembering my association with FedEx for the past 25 years, I could not believe that FedEx has degraded to such a level.

What happened to all the fancy automated address checking system that FedEx has built in to their software and their FedEx Address Checker website. Since the Onecall store used an automated FedEx shipping system (the FedEx customer service manager Ms. Stormy Ayler told me), would the system not have alerted the store when preparing the shipment? or at least the package pick-up driver while collecting and scanning the package? or the receiving station? or all the many stations, locations, and systems that my package would have gone through?

Considering it is a Priority Overnight shipment (one of the most expensive services FedEx offers), one would safely assume FedEx will also have priority resolution systems in place in line with the high prices charged. If they had informed either my brother in law or me just one hour earlier, he could have gone to the station and collected it.

Worst case if someone looked at the package, it had the destination phone number and a phone call would have resolved the problem immediately.

Doing me a favour? Sorry FedEx, a vendor never does a customer a favour. It is the other way around. Study the Japanese phrase “O Kyaku sama wah Kami sama desh” simply translated in English — Customer is equal to God.

With the FedEx approach I experienced, may be they should change their motto — We’re no worse than the other guy.

….and the store, Onecall. They tried to convince FedEx and failed. They recalled the shipment, but will not refund my money till the package reaches them; effectively holding me financially responsible for a package which never reached me. Not a good way to build trust.

Mistakes happen, no doubt about it — it is how well, seamlessly, and quickly the correction is done that separates the good organisations from the great.

In our modern hectic world, we seem to have forgotten the simple old-school rules of doing business one of which says, 69% of customers leave because of an attitude of indifference exhibited by someone in the organisation; the second which says no written agreement can beat a look in the eye, the spoken word, and a firm handshake; and the third which says it costs 10 times as much to gain a new customer than to retain one.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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